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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 253        E-mail us    
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An analysis on the news
Tourism police force getting major investments

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía Turística has become a reality with 122 officers in distinctive white shirts ready to take the field in spots with high concentration of visitors.

The Junta de Desarrollo de la Zona Sur has donated $500,000 for a building improvements in its area. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has donated a similar amount for headquarters buildings at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia and at Playa Panamá.

The government of Taiwan chipped in with $2 million for uniforms, bulletproof vests, bikes and motorcycles.

At a graduation ceremony Wednesday President Óscar Arias Sánchez spoke of the importance of tourism and that investors and tourists must have confidence in political stability and security.

The tourism police idea was a major plank in the campaign platform promoted by Arias. The officers came from the Fuerza Pública and were given special instructions in English, how organized bands of thieves work, false documents and customer service.

No one really knows how much crime has cost the country's tourism industry in the last five years, but the amount is substantial. From news stories to U.S. Embassy warnings, Costa Rica has been sporting a black eye.

The tourism police will at least be a public relations solution. But the 280 or so officers is a tiny force compared to the 11,000-member Fuerza Pública, which is supposed to be the first line of defense against crime.

And the additional layer of bureaucracy probably will not go far in stiffling serious crime.

Right now crime is countrywide. Crooks in the Central Valley routinely travel to tourist beach areas to find their victims and then return home.

Casa Presidencial photo
A new tourism officer received credentials

The situation is anything but local and certainly out of the reach of a cop on a bicycle at the beach.

The courts and the public prosecutors are overwhelmed. Crimes go unsolved due to lack of investigatory time.

Fernado Berrocal, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, has said he wants to adopt the zero tolerance policies of the former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He has been successful during the first seven months of his tenure with wholesale arrests of petty drug dealers and suppliers as well as the known criminals who hang around the downtown.

The courts have not kept pace, and the kind of minor crime that zero tolerance targets is exactly the type that the court puts on the back burner. Consequently, Berrocal has not been as successful as he might, and public confidence in the court system is falling.

Any evaluation of the success of the tourism police probably will take at least a year. Officials already have made their decision to put significant investments in new buildings for the tourist police instead of support for the beleagured existing delegaciones in beach communities like Jacó, Nosara, Sámara and Playas del Coco.

The only barometer is an increase or decrease in crime overall.


Marine and sister fight off a pair of thugs with gun
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A brother and sister from the United States faced a gun but fought off a pair of bandits Tuesday night in a San José area with as many as seven tourist hotels.

Victims of the attempted robbery, 23-year-old Brittany D. Barnett from San Diego, California, and 25-year-old Michael D. Barnett, from Tucson, Arizona, said that they were followed by the two men after leaving a bar south of Parque Morazán about 11:30 p.m. 

After they arrived at the front door of their hostel, the Tranquillo Backpackers at Avenida 9 on Calle 7,  a robber approached and pointed a gun at Michael Barnett's head and demanded that he and his sister hand over all of their money, said Brittany Barnett just moments after the incident.

Michael Barnett is a trained U.S. Marine and Iraqi war veteran. He reacted instantly upon sight of the gun and grabbed it from the robber's hand, reported Ms. Barnett.  A fight ensued. A second robber joined in, and the pair were able to regain control of the weapon and bash the brother on the head three times, resulting in cuts and bruises to his scalp, she added. 

While Michael Barnett was still entangled on the ground with the robbers, detaining and punching one of them, his sister said she was able to pull the other away by grabbing his nose and kicking him in the body. 
After the robbers made it to their feet, they quickly fled with nothing more than their gun and ran back in the direction of Parque Morazán.  No shots were fired from the gun, but the woman's screams attracted people from many of the hotels into the street.

The woman said the men were between 20 to 26-years-old between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 10 inches. 

She also said that police officers arrived after the incident but stayed no more than a few minutes at the hostel. They left when they realized that neither of the Barnetts could speak Spanish well, she said. Consequently no police report has been filed.

While Brittany Barnett has been traveling Costa Rica for the last three months without any similar incidents, it was her brothers first day in the country.  Both plan to spend Christmas with their family here. Their mother has a house on the Pacific coast. 

The outcome was not nearly as favorable Tuesday night when two robbers held up a Piedades-bound bus.

Passengers wrestled with the bandit who was holding a gun and the weapon discharged. The bullet hit a Multiplaza, Escazú, employee, Evelyn Alfaro Alegría, in the head. She died. The woman worked at Carrion, a store in the mall. Similar to the hostel incident, the bandits fled the scene.
More then 70 public buses have been held up in Costa Rica this year. 



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 253 

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Our reader's opinions

Major cases there show
U.S. court process is slow


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It amazes me how Mr. Jeff Lindheimer titles Costa Rica and its court-system with “kangaroo-court judgments.” There are two issues to look at:  “greed” of investors, and, yes, the judicial follow-up.

I want to remind Mr. Lindheimer: Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, how many more do you need.

In 2000 a receiver was appointed for a company in Florida, PRSI, that defrauded 60,000-plus people.  As off today, it still is in the system. Some people are sentenced. The “found” money of close to $6 million is now down to $2.7 million (thanks to paying only fees to lawyers/research to find millions more???) and not one cent yet to any of 60,000 people.

And that’s only one of possible thousands of cases pending for years, and eating away on the remaining funds.  Where is the difference about “kangaroo- court-system” Mr. Lindheimer?

Why looking down on this great little country? Please, with opinions like yours, stay in beautiful Pittsburgh.  And yes, I’ve been in your town.

Holger Speth
Puravida Costa Rica

Bashing America in style
but opinions require work


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The letter from Dave Grozanick Wednesday moved me to take a little time to write. I agree with him.  While some actions by the Americans are worthy of public criticism, many of the actions by the left go on unnoticed, brushed under the carpet or totally ignored.

There seems to be a larger pull to criticize America these days, kind of fashionable, like wearing an El Che “T” shirt or a tattoo.  I do not know the answer of why it appears more attractive to bash the Americans.  After all, these days tattoos are considered sexy while for the most part, they used to be the product of an irresponsible act performed while under the influence. Maybe today the left is being far more vocal praising their good deeds while the right is too busy working or waging war.

We can go as far back as Stalin and Mao as mentioned by Dave Grozanick but we can also look at the not so ancient, like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.  In today’s world of Internet, an interested party can look at “Che Guevara – Anatomia de un Mito” by Luis Guardia (book or video at www.youtube.com ) and see El Che in black and white, in action, expressing his views in person, as well as his published letters, personal testimonies of many of his co-revolutionaries from the Granma expedition to his death in Bolivia.

Rather than believing whatever I can write about El Che, hear it directly from El Che and his friends, then form an opinion about whether to wear the shirt or not.  I am sure you can find other articles praising his good qualities as well, Castro has seen to it and made it a profitable venture.  I am sure also that Stalin’s and Mao’s families saw a soft side of those considered criminals of Machiavellian proportions by others.

Google “Las Torturas de Castro” or “Victims of the Tugboat 13 de Marzo.”  If you look a bit harder you can find the list of those executed by Che, Fidel and Raul.  Look at Martires Pinareños and you can also find the list of those executed by Batista or executed in the attempt to kill Batista in Havana’s Palacio Presidencial. To their mothers, fathers and revolutionary buddies they were heroes, to Batista’s family members and members of their government mere assassins.

Since these actions happened over 40 years ago there is little reason why any young person would hesitate to wear a shirt with El Che, opine positively on the good that Castro has done for the Cubans and not think once that they could be just as well be wearing a shirt with a swastika or a picture of the concentration camps through the streets of Israel . . . making a statement.

But that may be too much work, it is easier to buy the “T” shirt and point to something close by.

L. Mambi
 
Investors should respect
Costa Rica as host nation


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A few legal aspects from the Villalobos case

The letter that answers the A.M. Costa Rica story about the Villalobos scam shows the ignorance of a few of the investors in the case. If that person doesn't have any trust in the court system, they should at least be respectful about their host country and not show their ignorance of the legal system in Costa Rica and the United States.

To answer his doubts, a court judgment in either country can be enforced in another country as long as it goes through the  international process called an execuatur. This basically is an additional process that goes through the consulate and the Ministry of Foreign Relations and then to the court in the country where it will be enforced.

The judge will then sign and approve the document and  make it legal to be enforced in that country.

As to the ability to be sued for the expenses and damages caused to the brothers or the other identical businesses such as the Savings Unlimited case if investors withdraw their claims:

Anyone who files a claim against another person or company and then withdraws from it unilaterally can be subject to a lawsuit for civil damages and expenses.

This fraud was committed in Costa Rica, and Costa Rica is the country that has jurisdiction over the case, not the U.S.A., Canada or Zimbabwe.  I also doubt that they would be arrested in USA soil.

The failures and slowness in the court system is common in both countries and this Captain Kangaroo that submits a letter to A.M. Costa Rica should limit his anger and direct it to filing and investigating the case.

P.S. If he is still waiting for these guys to come back and return the money, then I have a statue in La Sabana that I would like to sell him.

Lic. Gregory Kearney Lawson
Attorney at law, San José


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 253  







Christmas Eve tour will try to capture the Tico spirit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local business, CostaRicaSunday, has put together an all-day Christmas Eve tour that is designed to give visitors a glimpse of how Costa Ricans celebrate the Navidad.

The $78 tour will visit the Alajuela Cathedral, where organizers will explain some of the local traditions and show off the portal or nativity scene.  The tour will then stop at the Doka Coffee souvenir stand, where there will be a presentation about the harvest and production process of coffee.  The next scheduled stop is La Paz Waterfall and a popular bird-watching site.
While traditional food like tamales, fruit, cajetas and a stop at a local restaurant will provide for meals throughout the day, a traditional American dinner will be served at night. 

Participants will also attend the only English Christmas Mass, the company said.  Following Mass, organizers have planned a Christmas light tour with singing of both English and Spanish carols.

The company is also planning to host regular Sunday tours to various churches, in both English and Spanish, as well as visit popular festivals and other celebrations.



Drake Bay hotel will become marine research center May 1
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A hotel in the Osa Peninsula is closing down so the facility can be devoted to research on the declining number of sea creatures, according to the owner.

The owner, Sierra Goodman, who also founder of Fundación Vida Marina, said Wednesday that her Delfin Amor Eco Lodge in Drake Bay will be converted May 1 from a hotel into a marine education and research center.

Vida Marina is a non-profit foundation that is trying to create a marine sanctuary in the Drake Bay and surrounding areas.  Ms. Goodman reported that the decision to change the building's purpose is part of an effort to concentrate entirely on protecting and conserving marine life in the area.  During the last eight years, the foundation has recorded some disturbing changes in the ecology of the  Drake Bay and has decided to take action, said a report from Vida Marina.
Some of the changes in the area include a decrease in the Olive Ridley Green Sea Turtles by more than 75 percent, an increase in injured and dead dolphins, baby humpbacks covered in fishing line, as well as reports from fisherman that the fish stocks are down, said the foundation.

The foundation said that it will continue to provide dolphin and whale tours, which are available from most hotels in the Drake Bay area. 

The Vida Marina staff emphasized that attending the tours contributes directly to the protection and conservation of Drake Bay and the surrounding waters.

The former cabinas of the hotel are to be used for marine biology students, interns, dolphin and whale camps, visiting scientists and volunteers, said Ms. Goodman. 

She also said that the foundation is in search of start up funds for the work on the marine sanctuary project.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 253  


Panamá and United States reach a free trade agreement
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States has reached a free-trade agreement with Panamá that officials said promises to boost trade and investment flows between the two nations and expand the reach of U.S. economic zone in Latin America.

“The historic agreement between two good friends and close partners will promote economic growth and development in both of our countries,” said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

Ms. Schwab said, however, that the agreement is subject to additional discussions on labor.

Labor and environmental issues related to trade agreements have proved to be controversial in the U.S. Congress, which now must approve the pact. Democrats, who now control both the Senate and House of Representatives, generally have supported stronger labor and environmental provisions than those negotiated by the administration.

In addition to the agreement with Panamá, the new Congress will need to address similar deals with Colombia and Peru when it convenes next month.

“We strongly support the agreement and urge both legislatures to give it a resounding yes,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. The council is a business group promoting democracy, open markets, and the rule of law throughout the Americas.

Farnsworth said that, on the 17th anniversary of Operation Just Cause (the U.S. invasion of Panamá), the current deal “neatly encapsulates the evolving and maturing U.S. relationship with Latin America.”

In the near term, passage of the accord is not likely to affect trade flows from Panamá significantly because 95 percent of Panamanian exports already enjoy duty-free access to the U.S. market.

The pact, however, would expand and secure for the long-term those benefits, which now require periodic congressional approval, according to a news release issued by the Trade Represenative's Office.
In addition, Panamá would be able to export duty-free to the U.S. market nearly all of its sugar production compared with three-quarters of its output now, according the American Sugar Alliance. The sugar provision is considered by trade experts a win for Panamá because the United States limits sugar imports to keep domestic prices higher than those set in world markets.

U.S. sugar producers, who in 2005 lobbied against the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement because the countries involved also are sugar-producers, have said they are not opposed to the trade deal with Panamá.

In addition, according to a U.S. trade official, the new agreement would guarantee that Panama’s construction firms receive 10 percent of the contracts to modernize and expand the Panama Canal, which until 1999 was U.S. territory.

Under the deal, U.S. companies also would have an opportunity to participate in the undertaking, which the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls “one of the most important infrastructure projects in the hemisphere”.

In October, the Panamanians approved in a referendum the $5.3 billion canal expansion plan, which would double its capacity and enable larger ships to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The agreement also would put U.S.-Panamanian trade on a reciprocal, mutually beneficial footing, said Dan Christman, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business lobbying group.

More than 88 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial goods to Panama would become duty-free immediately, with remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years. Panama also would expand market access substantially across the entire range of services, including financial services.

More than half of all U.S. farm exports to Panama would become duty-free once the agreement enters into force and tariffs on remaining agricultural products would be phased out within 15 years, according to a prepared statement by U.S. Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns.


Chávez disputes claim by U.S. ambassador that cocaine trafficking on rise
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has accused the U.S. ambassador to his country of lying about increased drug trafficking in Venezuela.

Chávez said Wednesday that the ambassador, William Brownfield, should retract his statements if the United States really wants improved U.S.-Venezuela relations.
Earlier this week, Brownfield said cocaine shipments in Venezuela have drastically increased since the country stopped cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Chávez called those statements false.

Since his re-election earlier this month, the United States has said it hoped to improve relations with the Chávez government. Chávez has been a strong critic of the United States


Former dictator in Uruguay ordered to stand trial in more dissident murders
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A court in Uruguay has ruled that former president Juan María Bordaberry will stand trial for the murder of 10 more political dissidents during his rule in the 1970s.

Bordaberry is already in jail and awaiting trial for his alleged role in four political killings in 1976. One of his top aides, former foreign minister Juan Carlos Blanco, is
also facing charges for those deaths.

Bordaberry was elected president in 1971. In June 1973, he dissolved Uruguay's Congress and began a repressive campaign against dissidents. Bordaberry was pushed out of power by the military in 1976.

Democracy returned to Uruguay in 1985 with the election of President Julio Sanguinetti.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 253


Saprissa posts a win, and La Liga looks to rematch Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deportivo Saprissa with the advantage of playing in its own Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás shut out Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, 2-0, Wednesday night.

This was a game in the Torneo de Apertura and the 250th meeting of these two clubs that have dominated Costa Rican Fútbol.

The teams meet again to decide the championship Saturday
at 8 p.m. in the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto

There were no goals in the first half of the 8 p.m. game.

In the second half, Alonso Solís had the first chance to put in a goal for Saprissa but the kick was off the mark. Solís quickly got a second chance with a penalty kick, and got the goal.

A Try Benneth pass let Allan Alemán pad the score with one more goal.


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